by Xinhua writer Zhang Jing
TOKYO, April 16 (Xinhua) -- Realism or selfishness? The image of Japan is now being questioned at home and abroad after the government announced its decision to discharge radioactive wastewater from Fukushima Prefecture into the sea.
For years, the island country has built up an image of politeness and restraint.
However, when it comes to the disposal of contaminated wastewater at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Japan turned a deaf ear to fierce domestic and international opposition, completely ignoring the public health and food safety of the international community.
The deep-rooted selfish nature beneath Japan's carefully cultivated image of self-discipline has been fully exposed.
Although it is normal for nuclear plants across the world to discharge radioactive wastewater into the ocean, the major concern over Japan's decision is related to the quantity of and the radioactive isotopes' density in the Fukushima wastewater.
Ten years after the nuclear disaster in 2011, Fukushima has so far collected 1.25 million tons of radioactive wastewater. Given the big amount of wastewater and the plant's location, any reckless dumping will pose a remarkably high risk to the interests of Japan's public, and the well-being of people in other countries and regions.
Over the past several days, China, South Korea, Russia and the European Union, as well as more than 300 environmental groups have expressed their ardent opposition and concerns to Japan.
UN human rights experts on Thursday published a joint statement, stressing the "considerable risks to the full enjoyment of human rights of concerned populations in and beyond the borders of Japan."
In addition to the contamination risks, Japan's unilateral decision to release radioactive water into the sea is wholly unjustified and illegal.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which Japan is a signatory, requires contracting states take all measures necessary to ensure that pollution arising from incidents or activities under their jurisdiction or control does not spread beyond the areas where they exercise sovereign rights.
However, scientists have found proof that tritium, a radioactive byproduct of nuclear reactors in the wastewater could reach as far afield as the U.S. west coast within two years, while traces of ruthenium, cobalt, strontium, and plutonium isotopes in the wastewater also raise concerns.
More worrying is that Japan's violation of its international obligations has won the support of the U.S. government, which said Japan "appears to have adopted an approach in accordance with globally accepted nuclear safety standards."
Washington's decision to give the green light to such a reckless move based perceived safety is ludicrous. It's a classic textbook play of foregoing principles and adopting double standards.
"Would this open the door for any country to release radioactive waste to the ocean that is not part of normal operations?" This question raised by Ken Buesseler, a marine chemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Falmouth, Massachusetts, is alarming.
The oceans are the common property of all humankind. Any country should be condemned if it treats the oceans as its own sewer like what Japan is set to do.
The Japanese government must behave transparently on the issue, responsibly respond to the concerns of the international community and adopt a scientific attitude.
Facing the possibility of a more polluted ocean, the international community must never accept the selfish acts of a country eager to simplify a complicated scientific problem for its own convenience. Enditem